Candyman

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Bernard Rose, whose Paperhouse was aptly thought of as a Nightmare on Elm Street for grownups, is not so exclusionary here. While ushering in the teenager, he doesn't shoo away the adult. He doesn't do so, for a start, by casting an actress as strong and mature — and, um, is buxom the word? — as Virginia Madsen in the principal role of an overdue graduate student researching a modern-day urban myth to do with a hook-handed boogeyman haunting a Chicago slum. When she exposes a dime-a-dozen nose-candy peddler (who has appropriated the Candyman moniker — perhaps he was familiar also with the sophisticate's interpretation of the Sammy Davis, Jr. song — and who carries a grappling hook for authentication), the "real" Candyman pops up, with the booming voice of a P.A. system, to restore his bad name. Before that happens, the action proceeds with some followable detective work and some intense tension, punctuated (or disrupted) by a few false-alarm frights for the Young and the Restless. The level of gore eventually achieved will not disappoint them. But the deeper trouble with the movie is that, far from being too mindless, it is too self-conscious and pretentious, attempting to whip up a myth from scratch (a nice trick if you can do it: see Val Lewton's Cat People) but having only the vocabulary and not the vision. In that sense, the academic setting is all too appropriate. (1992) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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